Ornithologi

A studio for bird study

Tag: buteo

Maintaining a Creative Outlet is Necessary for Study

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Ferruginous Hawk- Buteo regalis. 8×11″ Prismacolor on bristol

I’m currently in the midst of my first semester of graduate school. I’m pursuing a degree in raptor biology, which entails loads of technical study and analytical understanding. While I’ve saturated myself with technical thinking, I often feel the urge to exercise creativity. This urge has come to conflict with my current aspirations and responsibilities, but after some reflection, I’ve settled on a solution to this conflict by accepting the urges and managing my time in a way that allows me to embrace and express my creativity. I really believe that in the end, maintaining a creative outlet will ultimately strengthen my study of raptors, and strengthen my critical thinking.

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Rough-legged Hawk- Buteo lagopus. 8×11″ prismacolor on bristol.

I’ve featured two Illustrations that I’ve done since I started classes. I am going to continue with the raptor illustrations, but I’ve decided to start focusing on painting again as well. If anyone has a request of something they would like to see me illustrate or paint, feel free to let me know. I always appreciate a little direction.

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The Benefits of Photography for Mapping Avian Movements

by Bryce W. Robinson

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Above is a photo of an immature light morph Swainson’s Hawk that I took on the 7th of September, 2013 at the Goshutes Raptor Migration Sight in eastern Nevada. Notice the red band on the birds left leg. I’ve cropped the image a great deal, but below I’ve enlarged the section of the image to show the band in greater detail. At this resolution, the image becomes pixelated, which is unfortunate.

SWHA MAGI contacted the BBL in hopes of tracking down someone that might recognize the band. I am so very grateful for their organization, as they quickly sent out emails asking those they have permitted for color banding SWHA. Within a day or two, I had a hit.

A man name Chris Briggs contacted me and gave his firm assurance that this bird was a bird he had banded earlier this year as a nestling. He mentioned his use of special characters such as the obvious < symbol on this birds color band. He thought that the other character on the right was either an 8 or a 9. One cannot be too certain, but he did assure me that the band was certainly his.

As the birds age was apparent from its plumage, I was really interested in where the bird originated. Chris informed me that this bird was banded as a nestling near Macdoel, California, a town near the northern border just south of Klamath Falls, OR. He sent me the photo below.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Vennum

How exciting! It is nearly certain that this bird is the same bird as the bird I photographed in Nevada. I am so thankful that the organization exists such that a photographer can capture a photo of a bird with a band, and if the band is legible, can track that very same bird to the place that it was banded, without ever trapping the bird. The invasiveness of trapping hawks is curbed with the advent of the camera! Revolutionary….

Well, my question is then why are we as raptor researchers, or ornithologists as a whole not employing this technique more often? Some may state the added detriment of more bands is not worth while, and I do not discount this contention. However, how much more detrimental will one color band be to an already banded raptor? It is a discussion worth having, because with the amount of folks armed with cameras today, we could find ourselves with a lot more re-sight records, and a better understanding of spatial ecology in particular species.

I’d like to include another recent instance for emphasis. A few months ago, my friend and obscenely talented photographer Ron Dudley photographed a young Prairie Falcon in Montana. It happened to have a color band, and he was able to track down where the bird was banded. As it happened, his bird was also from California. You can read the story in detail on his blog.

How peculiar, this bird that fledged from its nest, and for whatever reason did not disperse directly south, but in a somewhat north east direction. North east enough that it passed by the Goshutes in early September on its way south. In my own personal study, I’ve learned that this non southward directionality of post fledging dispersal is something many people tracking birds of prey are seeing. The old north to south paradigm is becoming a bit more complicated than initially thought, and young birds seen traveling south on their fall migration, aren’t necessarily birds fledged from the north.

Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis Consuming Prey

by Bryce W. Robinson

 

I took this video the other day. At the beginning, you can see the bird reject the intestines of the rodent. Everything else is consumed. It is a bit long, but worth a watch. The hawk gets very animated towards the end. It is quite the treat to view, as a great deal of detail is visible.

I wonder about this bird. In the winter, it is difficult to distinguish visitors from residents. This is a unique looking bird. White on the lores, crown, and supercilium is not common amongst Utah’s western Red-tailed Hawks. Perhaps this is a bird from the north country. One cannot be sure, but it is fun to wonder.

Buteo cooperi- A Journey of Mystery Into Ornithological History

by Bryce W. Robinson

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A quick sketch of my interpretation of Buteo cooperi

A few weeks ago my friend Mike called me and asked if I was interested in helping him solve a bit of a mystery he had stumbled upon. A friend of his had found an old ornithology book in a store in Moab, Utah. She was admiring the plates, and came upon one that interested her. It was an illustration of a hawk named Buteo cooperi. She had never heard of any Buteo with the species epithet cooperi. Her curiosity caused her to contact Mike and ask if he had any idea what this bird might be. He had never heard of Buteo cooperi either, but resolved to solve the mystery.

Mike did some research and came up with a reporting of two accounts of this Buteo cooperi. Apparently, in 1855, an ornithologist named J.G. Cooper came upon an interesting hawk in southern California. He shot the hawk, as was the custom of the time, and collected the specimen. He decided the bird was its own species and coined it Buteo cooperi. Mike found this account, as well as an account by the ornithologist Ridgway on the California bird and a second Colorado bird. You can read his account  here. Both accounts hover around the possibility that this bird is somehow related to the Red-tailed Hawk- Buteo jamaicensis, and could possibly be the light phase of the subspecies Harlani. Ridgway reviewed the decision to coin Buteo cooperi as a separate species, however he was confused by the coloration of the primaries, and could not settle upon the identity of the bird. It was left unsettled.

When Mike called me, he had felt that he needed a second opinion and some help with the bird. I of course agreed to help. As I am a true geek when it comes to the world of birds, I thought the journey back into the archives of ornithological history would prove fruitful for my education. And of course it would also be fun. I read the two papers that he sent me describing the bird, and felt that the specimen was likely the light morph of Buteo jamaicensis harlani, the Harlan’s Hawk. Still, to be thorough, I searched further.

I finally found a definitive answer to support my assumptions at the following link.

http://elibrary.unm.edu/sora/Condor/files/issues/v032n05/p0259-p0260.html

This description from a review of the specimen in 1930 gave me the impression without much doubt that the bird known as Buteo cooperi was in fact a light morph Buteo jamaicensis harlani. I felt good about where the mystery came to its end, but for the need to somehow come to an answer of my own, I decided to do some further looking, and it payed off.

I found a link to information regarding a specimen at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. The specimen is in fact the very bird that J.G. Cooper shot, and collected. You could imagine my excitement at finding that the specimen was still around. You can see the link here.

I decided that the only way for me to come to any conclusion on the birds identity was to see the bird for myself. At the moment, I was not in any position to make a trip to Washington D.C., so I thought I would take a chance at emailing the curators of the museum in hopes that they might send me some photos.

Below, you can see the result of that email. They sent me photos!

 

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It is obvious by these photos that this is indeed a light morph Harlan’s Hawk. I love the white in the crown and nape.  What an adventure. I am super thankful to Mike for including me in the hunt. I would also like to thank those at the Smithsonian for their cooperation and willingness to send me these photos. My curiosity and fascination for the study of birds knows no end, and the history of ornithology is no exception. Let the journey for knowledge continue.